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MONDAY - Kansas is officially known as "The Sunflower State"! Well let me tell you, the stretch of US-85 that we drove in North Dakota today would have you believe Kansas needs to give up that moniker.

For miles and miles we saw nothing but sunflowers on both sides of the road. They were all facing the sun, even through the haze created by the wildfires up in Canada, they knew where to look.

Upon arriving at this campground we have officially reached the northernmost point of our 2023 travels. Everything from here to the end of the year will be south and/or east of here, until mid-November when we'll head west again.

Along most of our travels today, when there weren't sunflowers to look at, there were these colorful striped exposed cliff faces. These are what the badlands region is all about.

With only 80-miles between the South and North Unit campgrounds of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, it wasn't long before we were turning off the 14-mile long scenic drive inside of the park and headed for the campground.

If the scenery is half as nice as this long curving driveway into the campground I think we're going to like it here.

They don't accept reservations here, so any vacant campsite you find is yours for the taking. Wouldn't you now it, we drove through the entire campground looking for just the right site for us and we found it in the very last site, #44.

It has plenty of sun for solar collecting, a great view of the northern sky for our Starlink dish, it's own trash can and is relatively, but not too close, to the bathrooms.

After getting setup we did our usual routine and drove back to the Visitor Center to get my Passport Book stamped and pickup any maps or literature about the park we would find useful during our visit.

Shortly after dinner and just around dusk, 8:15PM in ND, the wildlife began emerging from the woods surrounding the campground. We had a good sized Blacktail Deer come out of the brush right outside of our rear window. While taking the photo we also noticed a Texas Longhorn Steer was peering at us from across the clearing in the middle of the campground loop.

NO! I did not Photoshop that Texas Longhorn Steer into the photo (more on that later though).

TUESDAY - Tricia was awake early to go do her morning "walk and talk" with her girlfriend back in Jacksonville.

But first she had to drive ROVER two miles back towards the Entrance Gate to a point along the 14-mile Scenic Drive where there is cell phone service.

There is zero service in the campsite we're in, as I suspect is the case with all the other campsites here too.

This high point along the drive had a direct view of a cell tower up on the ridge.

The early morning sunshine really makes the color "pop" on the mountain sides.

Even the Juniper and Cottonwood trees seem more alive.

Now there are two of these Texas Longhorn Steers hanging around the campground.

They are descendants of a small herd that was brought up from Texas back in the 1880s.


Theodore Roosevelt National Park - North Unit


You can hike a short trail right up to the base of the mountains.

This section of mountain side collapsed at a 45° angle.

All throughout this large mountain is where you'll find a geological oddity.

They are called "Cannonball Concretions".

They are formed deep inside the mountain.

They form in all different sizes and shapes, but the "roundish ones" are called Cannonballs.

Scientists still aren't sure why some of them take on this round shape.


Here's ROVER in front of another smaller collection of cannonballs across the street.

This is the view from near the parking lot at the River Bend Overlook.

The River Bend Shelter was built by the Civilian Conservation Corp in the late 1930s.

I'm assuming the woodwork has been refurbished at some point.

Once past the River Bend Overlook you ascend to a large "flatish" grassy plateau.

Looking down into the coulee (i.e. ravine) you'll see blacktopped looking buttes.
The "blacktop" is actually a layer of bentonitic clay which becomes slippery when wet.

The end of the road is where you'll find the Oxbow Overlook where
the Little "Mo" Missouri River snakes it's way through the bottom of the badlands.

WEDNESDAY - Originally, today was going to be our last day in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. But then two factors came into play to change our minds and we've decided to stay put for another two days.

"Factor #1" is that we visited the State Park where we were going to be headed tomorrow and found the site we had reserved was not going to work out well for us. It's located in a dense stand of trees and there is a sign warning that trailers over 30' long or 10' high are not allowed in this section of the campground.

I went back and looked all over the State Park's campsite reservation website and nowhere did it mention the 10' height limit. THE POD is only 28' feet long and the length allowed is usually determined by the ability to navigate the roads inside the campground and obstacles to avoid getting into each site.

Our reserved site was listed as 24', but we found the site would easily accomodate ROVER and THE POD. It would have been a little bit tricky getting in and out, but we could have made it work.

The 10' tall limitation is another matter all together. THE POD was just short of 10' tall when we took delivery back in 2018. Since then we have installed 1" taller tires and a 3" lift kit. We also added ceiling vent covers that stick up just above the A/C unit, the previous high point of the trailer.

During our preview of the campground I noticed several questionably low branches throughout the campground. I can keep an eye out for left and right clearances when moving into a campsite, but from ground level it's hard to tell with 100% accuracy if you're going to clear that branch over the roof.

I was definitely leaning towards canceling our reservation after finding out there were no other campsites available at such a late date. Then came the clincher, we got a voice mail, and in comes "Factor #2".

Back at the beginning of June I had a phone conversation with a friend from back in Florida. He said he was planning a road trip out west this summer and wondered where we would be traveling. I sent him our "tentative" itinerary for the month of August and told him how good it would be if we got together.

I hadn't completely forgotten about the phone call, but I hadn't heard anything further, until yesterday that is. While we were checking out the Scenic Drive, where there is no cell service, he called and left a voicemail. Once we returned to THE POD and I fired up the Starlink dish I received the voicemail.

It said he was just leaving Yellowstone and was shooting for Devils Tower, WY before nightfall. That would put him 283-miles south of us and well within visiting range. By us staying put for an additional two days it means we can visit without having to get up and go the next morning.

What this all means is we could very well be sharing dinner with our good friend Jim B. tonight!

Jim has been a member of our Facebook Group since our 10th DAY on the road and we now have "1918 DAYS", that's a long time to "Follow Us". I'm glad he may finally catch up with us.

THURSDAY - Well Jim did indeed show up last night after his visit to Devil's Tower and made it just in time for dinner.

The next morning, after a hearty breakfast, we waited for the weather to clear and then we all jumped into Jim's vehicle and took off to explore the nine miles of Scenic Drive located past the campground turnoff.

Our first stop was right at the intersection of the campground turnoff and where it meets up with the Scenic Drive.

This is where the Cannonball Concretions are found and we spent a fair amount of time walking around among them.

Another visitor in the park was kind enough to take a quick picture of the three of us while we were at this stop. We of course reciprocated by taking their photos as well. That task fell on Tricia, our "Official" trip photographer.

Don't we look like three "well fed" Happy Campers after Tricia's dinner of BBQ pork with potatoes and onions for dinner last night, followed by this morning's breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast?

Time to get back in the car and start the 9-mile drive to the end of the road.

It wasn't long before we spotted our first bison in the North Unit of the park.

A little further down the road we stopped at the River Bend Overlook and found two women sitting under the shade shelter with binoculars checking out the river below. I figured they were just bird watching or admiring the scenery like the rest of us.

NOPE! They were working. They both live and work on a local ranch and were contacted by the National Park Service to come round up quite a few head of cattle that had managed to get through the perimeter fence and start grazing in the park.

They were up here at the overlook checking on the progress of their husbands efforts to drive the cattle to a location where they have a transport trailer waiting to take the cows back home.

A few minutes later this was the scene far below us down on the Little Missouri River.

First we saw the cows swimming across the river.

Next was the riders and the dogs making sure they didn't change their minds and double back.

They finally appear to have all the cows safely across the shallow river.

With that accomplished the women left the overlook and so did we. The rest of the drive was pretty, but uneventful. Lots of wide open spaces, but no more wildlife.

We made it to the end of the road, walked up to the Oxbow Overlook, returned to the car and headed for the campground.

When nearing the point in the road where we had previously seen the bison, we found him lounging in the dirt, apparently no longer hungry.

When we got back to the campground we got a surprise. The ranchers picked a location just outside of the campground to corral the escaped cattle and wrestle them into the trailer.

It was a real treat watching real North Dakota cattlemen at work.

It may not have been apparent in the videos, but two of the ranch hands helping out today were pre-teen children (1 boy and 1 girl). They'll probably be the next generation of ranch owners here in North Dakota.

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